Monday, April 25, 2011

tradesies? brownies for a sandwich?

tomorrow is a field trip for my son's APES class. APES is short for advanced placement environmental science, a course for upper class-men in his high school( you know, the ones with one foot out the door already). he took the course to load up his transcript with sciences and at the same time get to take some courses that allowed him to leave the school building. i accept that he is into this, even though it is not nearly as hard a course as AP physics or biology.
for him, it is a huge win-win. he is not the kind of kid that can thrive while in classrooms exclusively or without lab-style educational experiences. he needs fresh air and to keep on point when his school year is winding down. also he has a wicked (as they say in these here parts) case of senioritis.
if he can stay in the game of school for a few more weeks, i am really happy about that.

in conjunction with this Spring(fever) weather and his getting out of school for the day, he needs to bring a lunch along. this is not a problem, but on occasion,i am neglectful of the whole timely shopping for appropriate foods. this seems to be one of these times. so there are no cold-cuts in my house? should i freak out? no. no real time or money for fixing that. i live with locusts, you know, teenagers. they can mow down $200.oo worth of food in a few days. so getting the right food for perfect timing is really a challenge for me. i stopped trying to get things right. we have peanut butter and about 4 kinds of nice jams. if push comes to shove, i feel alright about letting him eat this for a day. it is novel at this time in life as well as delicious and nourishing. i think he will be ok , even if his heart is set on ham and cheese.
sorry, tough nuggies.
i found him texting someone on his phone while i was asking him to clean up his room. that is a repetitive, crummy, constant request on my part. i am not kidding when i ask. there are clothes at least a foot deep on the floor. and his shoes are HUGE. all the better for me to trip over.
i need not express how much i detest doing that!
the tripping, repeating myself and living with his messy style, i mean. when i finally got his attention, he admitted that he was trying to get a friend of his to bring him a sandwich for the field trip.
i give up.
i have tried to teach him not to be so rude, but he has finagled it into being one of his life gifts.
somehow he comes off as being very charming.
he has girls anxiously waiting to help him out in any imaginable socially acceptable manner.
his guy friends would not in a bazillion years consider making him a sandwich or full breakfast burritos as some sweet girl did recently. he is very smooth. i have no idea where he gets it from.
his father is a wiseass alternating with a grumpypants(i attribute that to being a morning person,which i am not). i am not always known for unerring diplomacy. however, since both dad and i are aware of some personal shortcomings, we have really tried to influence him and his sisters to be better than we are.
seemingly,it's working for him. much to my embarrassment.

since i was a more than a little horrified, i suggested that i would make brownies for him to trade for a sandwich. thus i would alleviate the guilt trippiness he'd laid me out in earlier this week. (he told me that he never gets pancakes for breakfast, but i make them for his sister all the time. of course this not true. he was "messing wit me" in his words.).
he got no bites on nagging some poor girl into making him sandwiches.
he did get me to make his brownies though.

brownies are one of my gifts from heaven. since i am an unabashed fan, i am always trying to improve on my baking techniques or tweaking recipes.
i started making them in my easy bake oven when i was 5.
when my mother was hospitalized and i was 6, i used the big household oven to bake things in.
no one was looking or paying attention to me in those days. it was as they say, a case of benign neglect.
being supervision-free can allow for Dickensian results.
you know, the ones where relatively small children participate in inappropriate age related tasks?
especially without anyone keeping them safe?
happily, i survived neatly, and with much larger portions of chocolatey goodness than my easy bake over could render after baking off with a light bulb.

{a moment of honesty}
i did NOT write this recipe.

i want this known up front. my luck came about after making the same recipe for years and years... decades and decades to be specific. my fave way to make brownies included melting baker's brand unsweetened chocolate and butter. this combination was added slowly to 3c. white sugar and 8 eggs which had been whipped into genoise style airiness. a little flour and some vanilla along with heat yielded a smashing light and deeply flavored confection.
i lived on these while i was a new mom. i needed the extra zip in my world to maintain my wakefulness.
it worked a treat too.
i am still trying to kick some calories to the curb twenty years later although,not admittedly too hard.
i have little self control obviously.
a male friend of ours used to drop in kind of regularly for a meal or a snack. he asked if i wanted to bake for a coffee house component of a space he was developing under his architectural hat.
long story made short... i needed to look for a less expensive way to make some brownies. although these were heavenly, i found a fresh recipe that used cocoa powder. i needed a rich and dewy replacement and while on my journey, i stumbled across this variation.
i am in love. it does all the things i need it to.
it is less costly, unless you buy the world's most costly eggs, sugar, and cocoa.
i am too frugal in many ways, but fresh eggs are essential. that applies to all of the best baked goods. that and unsalted butter. anyways... i shall share with no more special or self aggrandizing claims.
this is just a wonderful and easy recipe .
the only heating required is from melting the butter or margarine and from the oven itself. i find the microwave suits the melting phase pretty safely.
and yes, basically any 6 year old could do this safely with minor supervision.
the only real worry is if Fagin is around the corner looking for lifting a little snack for later.



my smudged up recipe card... which i adjust as my mood directs
to get my fave tasty results.

preheat oven to 325 degrees
and prep pan with parchment paper.

2 1/2 sticks of butter, margarine or a combination of the two
1 1/4 c. of packed brown sugar
1 1/4 c. of white sugar
1 3/4 c. cocoa powder
1/2 t. kosher salt
4 cold eggs
1 T. real vanilla extract
1 c. flour
1 1/3 c. lightly chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 t. instant espresso or coffee powder (also optional)
1 c. chocolate chips... (my preference but also optional)

1.} prep the pan with a sheet of parchment paper as shown here
skip the step for greasing the paper, just line a 13"x9" pan.

2.} melt butter in a heatproof glass measuring cup, in one minute increments.
i also like to put one of the empty wrappers on the top to keep it from spitting and such. it sticks to the rim and prevents anything from jumping the rim.

getting the shortening ready to be melted

3.} crack 4 eggs into a clean cup and make sure there are no shell fragments . set aside for now.

mise en place: everything in its place.
ready for adding into the bowl.

4.} measure out a cup of flour without tamping it down.


5.} in a large bowl, sift the cocoa through a sieve to eliminate any lumps. add the white sugar, packed brown sugar & salt. mix so it is evenly combined. often there are little brown sugar lumps, so try to work these out into the dry ingredients if possible. (coffee can be added now if it seems right for your dream brownie).

dry ingredients all together

breaking up brown sugar lumps and blending all dry ingredients

6.} add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly, then add the butter carefully. it can splash if you are too vigorous in the mixing. add the vanilla too, again carefully so no splashing.

you can see how granular the sugar is still

7.} everything is in now,except the flour. add this in with as few strokes as possible. that way, the gluten won't have enough of a chance to develop. it will toughen your pastry if you do.
if nuts are desired, now is the time to add them in. gently.

addition of flour.

flour added...
8.} put the batter which may look too stiff, into the pan. spread it neatly with a butter knife or offset spatula. bake at 325 degrees until the surface springs back after lightly being touched. or if the edges of the brownies are just starting to pull a hair away from the sides of the pan. i usually can tell by smell ... when i smell them, they are done. basically, this is a baked flat souffle with a little flour holding it all together.

don't say anything... it is very stiff batter.
please do not act like my goofy 17 yo. son.

batter spread in the prepared, lined pan

9.} let cool completely. if you have time, you can freeze the pan a little and using the paper liner to lift out of the pan onto a cutting board, this way you can cut them neatly. if you choose to cut without the freezing part.... use a hot knife and wash with hot water,drying in between slicing the big bar of chocolatey yumminess.

these are very rich brownies so i cut them into 2 dozen servings

i hope you like these as much as me and the boyo.
and the rest of the family.

thanks as always,

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